HIGHLIGHTS: *India’s budget ignores environment and climate change *India ranks 177 out of 180 in Environmental Performance Index *Study: India’s farmed chickens dosed with world’s strongest antibiotics *China’s Emissions: More than U.S. plus Europe, and still rising *Almost 4 environmentalists a week killed in 2017 *Air pollution linked to ‘extremely high mortality’ in mental ill
INDIA – BUDGET REVIEW
Environment and climate change get short shrift in India’s budget
India Climate Dialogue
Jaitley’s speech was devoid of any significant policy announcements regarding environment and climate change. In fact, he did not even mention renewable energy in his speech, a sector where India has taken a global lead in recent years, in part due to the proactive measures adopted by the present regime. The budgetary neglect also comes on the heels of India’s poor performance on the Environmental Performance Index released at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the alpine resort of Davos in Switzerland this week. The country was ranked 177 out of 180 nations included in the gauge.
Health insurance cover for 10 crore, but the numbers do not add up
The Economic Times
INDIA – MISCELLANEOUS
India ranks 177 out of 180 in Environmental Performance Index
The Economic Times
India is among the bottom five countries on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018, plummeting 36 places from 141 in 2016, according to a biennial report by Yale and Columbia Universities along with the World Economic Forum. While India is at the bottom of the list in the environmental health category, it ranks 178 out of 180 as far as air quality is concerned. Its overall low ranking – 177 among 180 countries – – was linked to poor performance in the environmental health policy and deaths due to air pollution categories.
India’s farmed chickens dosed with world’s strongest antibiotics, study finds
Chickens raised in India for food have been dosed with some of the strongest antibiotics known to medicine, in practices that could have repercussions throughout the world. Hundreds of tonnes of an “antibiotic of last resort” – only used in the most extreme cases of sickness – are shipped to India each year to be used, without medical supervision, on animals that may not require the drugs but are being dosed with them nevertheless to promote the growth of healthy animals. The consequences will be felt throughout the world because resistance to strong antibiotics is spread among organisms.
Punjab bans sale of toxic pesticides; CSE urges similar necessary action by the Centre
Down to Earth
The Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of the government of Punjab yesterday issued directions to discontinue the sale of 20 pesticides (insecticides), harmful to health of humans and environment with immediate effect. It also directed not to issue any fresh licenses for these pesticides. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed this move and urged similar necessary action by the Centre. Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the New Delhi-based think tank said, “We are pleased to know about this much-needed step. If a state like Punjab, highly dependent on pesticides, acts in the interest of public health, it is incumbent on the Central government to take necessary steps to eliminate sale of highly toxic pesticides in the entire country.”
NGT puts real estate on notice
In December the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) principal bench delivered a flurry of final hearings and judgments. The chairperson, Justice Swatanter Kumar, was completing his term and there were some crucial cases that required closure. One related to the legal question of whether building and construction projects were exempt from stated environmental approvals and if the environment ministry’s move to modify these was legally valid. In a strongly worded judgment on 8 December, the tribunal pronounced an important verdict. (Also read: NGT: Nod only if thermal plants meet ’15 norms)
The Lede Exclusive : US, German governments lobby for lifting of ban on illegal beach sand mining
Sources at the Centre too confirmed to The Lede that the reason for the Centre’s vacillation, from the PMO downwards, was the unrelenting pressure from the US, German and Australian governments demanding that the ban on beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu be lifted in order to aid companies in their countries. But why are the Americans and the Germans so interested in the remote southern coasts of Tamil Nadu? With the ban in place and finally being enforced, these foreign companies are feeling the pinch of supplies drying up. Supplies for firms like Barton and AMPECO come largely from Tamil Nadu – reportedly almost 80% of raw materials are exported from a few firms in the state.
Centre’s New Drought Manual Likely to Aggravate Farm Distress
The Manual for Drought Management, released in December 2016 by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, prescribes “new scientific indices and parameters” for a “more accurate assessment of drought” in the country. However, representatives of farmers’ groups and agriculture sector experts say that strict parameters for drought declaration in the new manual will make things worse for the farmers, especially in drought-prone areas of the country. In Maharashtra’s Vidarbha and Marathwada regions, which are infamous for farmer suicides and consecutive droughts, implementation of the new drought manual may act as the last nail in the coffin of the farmers, who are already taking their own lives due to repeated crop failure, indebtedness and other factors.
Maharashtra fishermen claim 800 hectare of wetlands destroyed in Uran
Fishermen’s associations and environment groups have complained that 800 hectares (8 sq km) of wetlands have been destroyed for different projects at Dronagiri node of Navi Mumbai. In a complaint filed this week, with the state environment department, Konkan commissioner and WGRC, fishermen from five villages, represented by Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP), have alleged that the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (CIDCO), the development agency for Navi Mumbai, and private companies are reclaiming wetlands by debris dumping and blocking the flow of tidal water in these areas.
18 cities in Karnataka breach WHO pollution norms
Bengaluru, Tumakuru, Bidar, Davanagere and Raichur are the five most polluted cities in Karnataka, according to a report released by Greenpeace on Monday. These cities have a high concentration of dust particles that can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs, causing serious health problems. The five cities top a list of 10 most polluted urban centres in Karnataka. Using government data, the report presents a country-wide picture on the prevalence of PM-10 (particulate matter with a diameter of 10 microns), one of the two most dangerous components of air pollution, the other being PM-2.5.
About 85 per cent of Bengaluru’s water bodies severely polluted: study
Down to Earth
As much as 85 per cent of Bengaluru’s water bodies are severely polluted. This fact emerged as a result of a two-year-long study of 681 water bodies, of which 392 are lakes. This, itself, is a scaled-down figure from the original inventory of 1,518 water bodies. The study, conducted by Bengaluru-based Environmental Management & Policy Research Institute (EMPRI), categorised 85 per cent of existing water bodies under the lowest grade—Class E. It means, their water can only be used for irrigation and industrial cooling.
India Coal Power Is About To Crash: 65% Of Existing Coal Costs More Than New Wind And Solar
King coal’s reign in India is about to come crashing down . Coal supplied 80% of India’s total power mix in 2016-2017, but economics have flipped the country’s energy equation – new renewable energy is now cheaper to build than running most existing coal-fired power plants. Renewable energy costs have fallen 50% in two years, and are forecast to continue dropping apace. New wind and solar is now 20% cheaper than existing coal-fired generation’s average wholesale power price, and 65% of India’s coal power generation is being sold at higher rates than new renewable energy bids in competitive power auctions. (Also read: Sasan plant may shut down in March for lack of coal: Reliance Power to HC)
‘CAG Report on Kudankulam is a Warning Bell for Nuclear Safety and Accountability in India’: NAAM Statement
National Alliance of Anti-Nuclear Movements welcomes the Report submitted to the Parliament of India by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). It raises some extremely serious questions about functioning of the nuclear establishment in India which the government and citizens can ignore only at their peril. The report vindicates the local people, activists, independent experts and scientists who have been raising the issue of vulnerability of crucial components used in the Russian-supplied nuclear reactors in Koodankulam. The CAG report brings out the fact that defective equipments, especially the turbine rotors have been used in the nuclear plant by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
BJP Wants All Workers To Become Contract Labourers
For the fourth time, the BJP-led NDA government is trying to turn the productive workforce of the country into an army of casual workers. The Union Ministry of Labour & Employment has issued a notification with draft rules introducing “fixed term employment” across sectors. This means all businesses are allowed to hire workers on a fixed-term contract basis — even as workers across industries have been demanding an end to contract labour and are demanding regularisation of jobs. All central trade unions in India have been consistently opposed to the moves towards contractualisation and casualisation of workers. (Related: Three-Quarters of The Indian Workforce Will Be In ‘Vulnerable Employment’ By 2019)
Goa increases coal handling capacity of Mormugao Port, a protected natural harbour
Down to Earth
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has often said he would not allow further expansion of existing coal handling facilities at Mormugao Port, a protected natural harbour in the state. He will now have to eat his words. The minutes of the 26th meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), which was held on December 14-15, 2017, tell an altogether different story. The ministry has recommended granting environmental and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances for the expansion of coal handling at Mormugao Port by South West Port Limited (SWPL), a company owned by steel and infrastructure giant JSW. (Also read: Goa ammonia gas leak: Two women hospitalised; hundreds evacuated from Chicalim village)
‘Doomsday Clock’ ticked forward 30 seconds to 2 minutes to midnight
The risk to global civilisation is as high today as it has ever been in the face of twin threats, nuclear weapons and climate change, a group of leading scientists has announced, putting a significant share of the blame on the Trump administration. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its symbolic Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds, to two minutes to midnight, in a reflection of how the scientists view the dangers facing the world. The only other time the clock was set so close to catastrophe in its 71-year history was in 1953, after the US and the Soviet Union detonated their first thermonuclear bombs.
Almost Four Environmental Defenders a Week Killed in 2017
The slaughter of people defending their land or environment continued unabated in 2017, with new research showing almost four people a week were killed worldwide in struggles against mines, plantations, poachers and infrastructure projects. The toll of 197 in 2017 – which has risen fourfold since it was first compiled in 2002 – underscores the violence on the frontiers of a global economy driven by expansion and consumption.
Extremely Warm Cyclone Predicted to Drive 50-60 F Above Average Temperatures Across North Pole
Our lexicon of what’s considered to be normal weather does not include February days in which temperatures at a North Pole shrouded in 24-hour darkness cross into above freezing ranges. But that’s exactly what some of our more accurate weather models are predicting will happen over the next five days. During this time, a powerful 950 to 960 mb low is expected to develop over Baffin Bay. Hurling hurricane force gusts running from the south and digging deep across the North Atlantic, Barents, and Arctic Ocean, the low is projected to drive a knife of 50-60 F above average temperatures toward the North Pole by February 5th. (Related: In 2017, the oceans were by far the hottest ever recorded)
China’s Emissions: More Than U.S. Plus Europe, and Still Rising
The New York Times
China — which already emits more carbon from burning fossil fuels than the United States and Europe combined — saw electricity use jump last year as its economy accelerated. Much of the extra demand was met by burning more coal, a particularly dirty fuel. Oil use has also risen as China has become the world’s largest car market, and so has natural gas consumption. Experts say one annual increase doesn’t indicate China is returning to an era when its emissions grew by leaps and bounds. But the increase illustrates the challenges and compromises Beijing must juggle if it wants to stoke its economy and at the same time keep its environmental promises.
UK Met Office warns of global temperature rise exceeding 1.5C limit
Global temperatures could break through the internationally agreed upper 1.5C limit within the next five years, according to a forecast by British scientists that raises fresh questions about the world’s efforts to tackle climate change. The Met Office forecasting service said that in the period from 2018 to 2022, annual global average temperatures are likely to exceed 1C above pre-industrial levels and could top the 1.5C threshold set as an aspiration by the global Paris climate change deal in 2015. (Also read: January becomes hottest month ever recorded in New Zealand)
Air pollution linked to ‘extremely high mortality’ in people with mental disorders
The risk of death for people with mental and behavioural disorders rises sharply on days when air pollution reaches toxic peaks, a major study in Hong Kong has found. Researchers analysed a decade of death statistics and revealed a strong link, with the mortality risk rising 16% on the first day of haze and 27% on the second day compared to normal days. If the haze was accompanied by high ozone pollution, the risk of death increased by 79%.
Heat from the Earth’s interior causing Greenland’s ice sheet to melt: study
Down to Earth
Lately, there has been a notable increase in the loss of the Greenland ice sheet (GIS) due to its seaward slide. A new research holds higher-than-expected geothermal heat flux (GHF) from the Earth’s interior responsible for the sliding of glaciers towards the sea and hence, acceleration of the surface melting. The GHF is the amount of heat moving steadily outward from the interior of the Earth through a unit area in unit time. The geothermal gradient varies with location. Although the impact of increased surface air temperature on sea ice cover is well-established, this is for the first time that the ice loss has been linked to escaped heat from the Earth’s interior.
Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister
Katrin Jakobsdottir, the 41-year-old chairwoman of the Left-Green Movement, has been elected Prime Minister of Iceland. One of the most well-liked politicians in Iceland, Jakobsdottir, a former education minister and avowed environmentalist, has pledged to set Iceland on the path to carbon neutrality by 2040. As Iceland’s fourth prime minister in only two years, Jakobsdottir will take office at a time when national politics have been tainted by public distrust and scandal. A democratic socialist, Jakobsdottir is viewed as a bridge-building leader that may lead the country towards positive, incremental change.
Trump isn’t reporting CO2 emissions, ending an era of global transparency
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has now failed to meet its legal obligation to deliver its biennial report on behalf of the United States on time. The Trump administration’s inaction — and failure to explain such inaction — undermines U.S. credibility and risks eroding the global consensus on transparency that previous presidents of both parties have long fought to establish and uphold. Fortunately, other actors in the United States are helping to fill the gap. In recent years, many states and cities, as well as businesses, have been working to implement their own programs that address climate, whether through clean energy, improved transportation, smart growth, and resilience to climate shocks. (Related: 1) Report: White House Wants to Cut Renewable Energy Programs by 72% 2) Washington Governor Shuts Down Gigantic Fossil Fuel Project)
[Video] Fukushima Nuclear Waste Crisis Is Getting Bigger With Every Passing Day
Adopting a return to normal policy, the Japanese government undertook an unprecedented decontamination program for areas of Fukushima contaminated by the triple reactor meltdown in March 2011. Fukushima prefecture is 70 percent mountainous forest which has not and cannot be decontaminated, with decontamination efforts focussed along roads and in towns, farmland and in narrow areas around peoples houses. The result has been that the Japanese authorities have produced a nuclear waste crisis, with over 7 million tons of waste located in 147,000 locations (as of August 2017). The Japanese government is determined to force people back to their homes despite the on-going radiation risks and the vast volumes of nuclear waste. (Related: Law360 report: Tepco, GE Escape $5B Fukushima Radiation Suit)
Dam building binge in Amazon will shred ecosystems, scientists warn
Most Amazon dams are in Brazil, where scientists have raised concerns about the displacement of local communities and emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane from large reservoirs. But as countries seek new energy sources to drive economic growth, a surge in dam construction on the eastern flank of the Andes could further threaten fish migration and sediment flows, Elizabeth Anderson, a conservation ecologist at Florida International University in Miami, and colleagues warn today in Science Advances.
Climate change and deforestation threaten world’s largest tropical peatland
Just over a year ago, scientists announced the discovery of the world’s largest intact tropical peatland in a remote part of the Congo’s vast swampy basin. The Cuvette Centrale peatlands stretch across an area of central Africa that is larger than the size of England and stores as much as 30bn tonnes of carbon. Now, the same research team has published a new study finding that future climate change, along with deforestation, could threaten the peatlands’ ability to soak up and store large amounts of carbon.
Vietnamese farmers are migrating en masse to escape climate change
The Vietnamese Mekong Delta is one of Earth’s most agriculturally productive regions and is of global importance for its exports of rice, shrimp, and fruit. The 18 million inhabitants of this low-lying river delta are also some of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change. Over the last ten years, around 1.7 million people have migrated out of its vast expanse of fields, rivers, and canals, while only 700,000 have arrived. The high net rate of migration away from Mekong Delta provinces is more than double the national average, and even higher in its most climate-vulnerable areas.
DuPont vs. the World: Chemical Giant Covered Up Health Risks of Teflon Contamination
Broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival, we are joined by three guests who personally battled with DuPont and are featured in the new documentary called “The Devil We Know,” that looks at how former DuPont employees, residents and lawyers took on the chemical giant to expose the danger of the chemical C8, found in Teflon and countless household products—from stain- and water-resistant apparel to microwave popcorn bags to dental floss. The chemical has now been linked to six diseases, including testicular and kidney. (Related: Millions of Americans Are Ingesting a Chemical Some Experts Believe Has No Safe Exposure Level)
Bangladesh seeks to protect rivers with new law
The Third Pole
The Ministry of Water Resources in Bangladesh has drafted a new river law. Zafar Ahmed Khan, Secretary in the ministry, says the new law is aimed more at protecting and conserving rivers than at exploiting water resources. In an exclusive interview to thethirdpole.net, Khan also talks about transboundary rivers and controversial water sharing issues between Bangladesh and India. He suggests that instead of working separately and then starting to talk, the two countries should work together, conduct scientific studies on the rivers they share, and ensure sustainable development. This is the only way to protect the ecosystem that the countries share, he believes.
Blood Oil: More Than Half of the Oil Traded Across the Globe Has Been Stolen
This is the biggest story that almost no one is reporting. In dozens of countries around the world, authoritarian regimes and armed groups are selling off the oil that belongs to the people, and using the money to fund repression, corruption, conflict and terrorism. Oil is the world’s largest traded commodity by far, so the amounts going to these autocrats and militias are gigantic: hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Many of the crises in the headlines over the past few years – coming from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Russia and more – have been powered by money from selling oil stolen from citizens.
France Is Officially Shutting All Coal-Fired Power Plants in Three Years
France’s president has pushed forward the country’s plan to shut down all of its coal-fired power plants by two years. President Emmanuel Macron now plans for France to be coal-free by 2021. A plan introduced by Macron’s predecessor, Francois Hollande, originally set 2023 as the year for coal-fired power plants to end production in the country. Only one percent of France’s power is generated by coal, so Macron’s choice to move this date up is largely symbolic of the new leadership position that France is taking in combating climate change.
Suspicions Adani altered lab report while appealing fine for Abbot Point coal spill
Adani submitted an altered laboratory report while appealing a fine for contamination of sensitive wetlands on the Queensland coast near the Great Barrier Reef, the Guardian understands. While appealing a $12,000 fine for spilling coal-laden water on to the beach at Abbot Point after Cyclone Debbie, Adani submitted a report detailing the nature of the spill. But the Guardian understands that while investigating the incident, the Department of Environment discovered the original lab report containing results left off the version Adani submitted. The original report found worse pollution than had earlier been alleged.
Industrial Noise Has Made Savannah Sparrows Change Their Tune
In North America, grassland songbirds are declining faster than songbirds in any other ecosystem, and activities from energy extraction may further threaten vulnerable species. My colleagues and I recently studied the songs of Savannah sparrows in their grassland habitats in southern Alberta, near Brooks. The area is typical for a rural Canadian prairie farming town, with farms and cattle grazing mixed with native mixed-grass prairie landscapes. We found that the birds adjusted their songs in subtle and precise ways to cope with the noise pollution produced by the machinery set up to extract natural gas and oil.
Oil Spill From Sanchi May Have Reached Japan
Oil from the stricken oil tanker Sanchi, which exploded and sank in the East China Sea, may have now reached the shores of Japan, according to the country’s Coast Guard. Reuters reported Friday that residents on the Japanese Amami-Oshima islands, famed for pristine beaches and reefs, have reported black oil clumps being washed up. Officials are now checking to find out whether the oil is from the Iranian registered tanker, which was carrying an estimated 136,000 tonnes of condensate when it sank in mid-January, with the loss of all 32 members of the crew. It also had nearly 1,900 tonnes of bunker fuel oil on board.
Mechanism study on a plague outbreak driven by the construction of a large reservoir in southwest china
The results show the prevalence of plague within the natural plague focus is closely related to the stability of local ecology. Before and during the decade of construction the reservoir on the Nanpan River, no confirmed plague has ever emerged. With the impoundment of reservoir and destruction of drowned farmland and vegetation, the infected rodent population previously dispersed was concentrated together in a flood-free area and turned a rest focus alive. Human plague broke out after the enzootic plague via the flea bite. With the construction completed and ecology gradually of human residential environment, animal population and type of vegetation settling down to a new balance, the natural plague foci returned to a rest period.
“It Is Frankly Scary” – Veteran central Banker Bill White Warns Global Financial System Faces “Perfect Storm”
The world financial system is as dangerously stretched today as it was at the peak of the last bubble but this time the authorities are caught in a “policy trap” with few defences left, a veteran central banker has warned. Nine years of emergency money has had a string of perverse effects and lured emerging markets into debt dependency, without addressing the structural causes of the global disorder. Professor White said disturbing evidence of credit degradation is emerging almost daily. The latest is the disclosure that distressed UK construction group Carillion quietly raised £112 million ($195 million) through German Schuldschein bonds. South African retailer Steinhoff also tapped this obscure market, borrowing €730 million ($1.11 billion).
WEF 2018: Alibaba founder Jack Ma says AI, big data pose threat to human being
A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck a chord with business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Jack Ma , founder and Executive Chairman of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, took the centre stage in one of the sessions at the alpine resort of Davos and talked about the impact of technology, artificial intelligence, role of women business leaders in today’s world and globalization. Ma warned that latest technologies like AI and big data are a threat and would disable people instead of empowering them.